While the cat’s away, the mice will play

While the cat’s away, the mice will play…hooky!

With Shelly’s away catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, taking photos of LEGO, taking about LEGO, and attending the LEGO House opening, I’ve decided to take a week off from posting. Shhh! Don’t tell her!

While the cat’s away, the mice will play…music!

While I’m here, I’ll just remind you that there’s a music themed challenge happening over at the G+ community.

While the cat’s away, the mice will play…music!
While the cat’s away, the mice will play…music!

Take the power of music and create images with your toys based on music!
Utilize songs and lyrics that inspire you to create.
Recreate your favourite singers and bands.
Take your favourite instrumental piece and interpret in plastic.
Turn your favourite figures into singers and rockers.

Be the maestro and orchestrate your masterpiece!

The image picked as the best of the month will win a special plastic prize and be featured as the community’s banner photo for the following month.

Whilst the G+ monthly challenges are nothing new, and the winner’s photo being featured on the communities’ banner the following month is the norm also, this is the first challenge that there is also a prize on offer. The first of many challenges with prizes on offer!

So what are you waiting for? Join the G+ community and get rocking!

– Brett

If you’ve made through all my blathering and ended up here, you should sign up to our weekly email round up where you’ll get a recap of all the babbling from the week.

And while you’re doing things, you should definitely join our G+ Community where we hold monthly contests with prizes and lots of other cool stuff too.

My Better Half

Yesterday, my wife Jordan and I celebrated our eleven year anniversary. We started dating the day we met – as teenagers at a birthday party who talked alone for hours, fell asleep holding hands, and told each other we loved each other the next day.

She’s my favorite person on the planet, my better half in every way, and instrumental in each and every photo I take and blog post I write. She’s more than my partner in crime – she’s the unsung hero of my artistic endeavors, of which there have been many over the last eleven years!

lego-super-jordan
Super Jo

She’s been supportive of every artistic itch I’ve had. Over the years I bounced back and forth between music, film, writing, and now photography. With each crazy new idea, she’s been along for the ride.

I’ve mentioned her in my posts a few times. She provided me with makeup brushes to remove dust, she was there for me when I dealt with depression, and she accompanied me to the Art of the Brick exhibit earlier this year. But when it comes to photography and even writing for this blog, she’s been pivotal in ways you’d never notice. While you’ve been looking at my work and reading my words, you’ve actually been spending time with her, too.

Jordan proofs each and every blog post I write.

I make sure to write my posts a few days before they’re scheduled to go out so that she’ll have a chance to sit down and go through them. She reads them out loud, with me sitting nervously next to her on the couch, and fixes every misplaced comma. She recommends synonyms that will spice up my language, and say things like, “I see where you’re going here, but think you’re forgetting this…

She’s the first one to look at my photos.

Whether it’s on my LCD screen immediately after a shot, or on my computer screen after a long editing session, Jordan’s always the first to look at my photos. I tell her most of my ideas before I shoot them, so she knows the basic premise before I turn my computer screen toward her. It’s fun to see her light up when an idea comes to life. It’s also hard when she frowns and says, “I’m not sure about that background,” or, “Why are the minifigure’s hands upside down?”

lego-hangover-jordan
This original Hangover picture only had 1 bottle. Jordan recommended I add more for a better effect.

Jordan even helps me take photos.

Some of my favorite photos couldn’t have been taken without Jordan helping me. I once put the Pig Suit minifigure on a chopstick and asked her to hold it above her head, so that I could get a shot of it against the clouds from the angle I wanted. The picture ultimately didn’t turn out because we were both laughing so hard that the pig kept flailing around and falling off of the chopstick! Like Marco and his family portrait, now every time I look at that minifigure, I smile.

lego-pig-fly
This is the final shot we got, a few days later – her personal favorite photo I’ve taken.

Jordan once saved my camera, a lens, and a minifigure from getting lost at sea! While I was bent down taking a shot at the beach, she quickly pulled me up as a wave came barreling towards me. She then grabbed the minifigure from the sand and managed to catch a lens that was falling out of my pocket.

lego-beach-ocean
This one’s dedicated to her and named after one of her favorite songs, California Dreamin’

Jordan has come up with great photo ideas of her own for me to take. She buys me LEGO sets she thinks will be fun to build or photograph together, and she always goes with me to feel up blind bags when the latest Collectible Minifigure series arrive. She even created a Sig Fig of her own, to accompany mine on his little adventures.

LEGO and photography are a huge part of my life, and it’s amazing to have someone to share it with. I’m proud of the work I’ve done, and it simply wouldn’t be possible without her.

Thanks for always being there, Jordan. I love you.

lego-selfie-jordan

-James

Do you have someone that you share this hobby with? Are they a photographer too, or an unsung hero like Jordan? Share your stories in the comments!

And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get notified when we have a new post ready for you, and to join our G+ community.

The Basics – Photographing toys in water

I’ve been taking photos in and around water for as along as I’ve been a photographer. There is something magical about water; the movement, the sound, the reflections. Being in and around water feeds something basic in my soul. Because of this, it’s only natural that water would make it into my toy photography. Some of my favorite toy images have been taken in water.

While water is beautiful to photograph, it’s not easy to work with. It can be unpredictable; water can steal your LEGO and it can leave you soaking wet. But even with these hazards, the final results are often worth it.

I prefer to photograph in the great out doors so when I talk about water I’m referring to rivers, lakes, puddles as well as the Puget Sound. I have found that the edges around any body of water is usually rocky, muddy, sandy or all three. Not exactly an environment that invites getting down on your knees or stomach for your typical toy photos. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks about working in and around water plus a few tips to make my life easier.

Tips For Water Photography

1) Lego doesn’t float consistently or at all.  If it does float, it will only move away from you as you’re taking photos. I photograph in shallow water like a puddle or build up a base for my subject to rest on. This can be nearby rocks, a bit of wood, a LEGO base plate (although you will have to weight this down) or a water glass. Whatever method you choose make sure you can disguise the object or remove any shadows with Photoshop.

I Will Be a Fisherman (These figures are positioned on a lego plate and then inserted into the water. I used loose gravel to cover the plate because even though the water was moving, you could still see the edges.)

2) If you’re looking for great reflections you will want to get low to the ground and aim across the water. Once you get at this level you can see that the surface of the water acts as a mirror. You can see the reflection and compose for the reflection rather than the subject.

I love how the dark shadows really let that reflection pop! The rocks around me where bright white and acted as a natural reflector.

3) Safety first! I have found that water can be unpredictable and a roque wave or a fast moving stream can soon send your figure on an unexpected adventure. Be careful; you don’t want to leave any friends behind! You will want to be aware if tides are going in or out. Its also good to be aware of how big the waves are and to keep a watchful eye on your figures. A rogue wave can easily whisk your subject out to sea! I will often watch the water for a few minutes to get the feel of the wave action before I put my figures in place.

Man down! Or is that cats down??

4) Water is very reflective and can cast deep shadows so you will need to have a reflector or portable light on hand. By illuminating the shadows you can eliminate hours of post production manipulation. If you’re working in the bright sun, be careful of unwanted hot spots on your figure. Sometimes its easier to move to the shade or wait for better light, than risk an image where the highlights are blown out.

A lego version of the Mouse Guard character Lieam journeys down the sparkling river in his Lego canoe.
This was taken at Magnuson Park while I was kneeling in the mud near the beaver damn.  If only I had known about reflectors when I took this photo! Then maybe we could see the figure better. 🙁

5) Where the right clothing and have protective gear along. The ground is hard and unforgiving. Once I was laying on rocks for so long to get the perfect photo that my entire side was dappled with bruises. So take it from me, bring knee pads, a small foam pad or a jacket you can kneel on. I also wear water proof shoes. You never know when you will be in the water rather than next to the water.

6) Not all water is moving. Sometime the water will be still and create perfect reflection but you want to create the illusion of movement. If this is the case, use a small twig or rock to break the surface of the water and simulate movement.

(On this photo I used a twig to get the water moving. If you’re asking your viewer to suspend their disbelief, you need to show your vehicle ‘moving’.)

7) Don’t be afraid of winter water photos. Photographing in the winter can create some unexpected bonuses. While water freezes in the cold, so does mud. This makes it  much easier to kneel on the ground. If you encounter a frozen pond in the sun, it will add extra sparkle to your photo. I’ve created some of my favorite photos in temperatures that are near or below freezing.

Galadriel (Bokeh on a frozen pond  can create a magical effect!)

8) It’s not always convenient to travel to the woods or a nearby park for water photos. You can create a manmade pool with a shallow dish and have a little pond ready to go at any time. The biggest draw back of this trick is that you will have to resolve the edges by masking. This way you can create the illusion of an outdoor pond. Extra added bonus: let your ‘pond’ freeze in the winter. You can create an instant ice rink, have figures frozen in ice and boats don’t sink!

Celebrating a job well done! (I used a small shallow pan to create this winter hot spot. The rocks are added to disguise the hard edge of the pan.)

9) Experiment with camera angles, and shutter speed. Your camera angle will determine what kind of reflection you can capture. Also by slowing down your shutter speed you can capture beautiful effects. If you have image stabilization on your camera you can drop below 1/60th to arounds 1/30th and capture the movement of the water. Experiment and see how slow you can go and still keep your figures in focus.

(A shutter speed of 1/30th or lower can produce some lovely effects showing water in motion.)

10) Photographing in and around water can be very rewarding. I encourage you to give it a try and have some fun with your toys!

Shelly

Do you have any tips you would like to share about working in and around water? 

And if you’ve made it this far I encourage you to sign up for our weekly email round-up. Or join our G+ Community were we hold monthly contests with prizes for the winner! 

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

Okay, so we’ve had posts about the magic of 3 and the power of 2, so now I feel I must advocate for 1 (or maybe just ramble about number symbolism).

One

Sure I’ve used various numbers of toys and figures in my photos, but I have a soft spot for one. That being said, I do tend to create solemn photos and 1 then comes to represent either lonliness, or  a solitary journey. This doesn’t mean, in the whole scheme of things that the figure is in life alone, but for this moment, when we see inside their head, they’re on a philosophical path that they must travel alone.

More

So then would 1 figure be solitude, 2 relationships, and 3 balance? Or at least this is my interpretation, but number symbolism in art is a thing – although not the easiest to research. Here’s what I’ve found so far for numbers 1 – 13. Check out the links below for further information on this sometimes odd list.

  1. unity, self, God, the universe
  2. opposites, duality
  3. mystical, spiritual, the family unit, beginning, middle & end, the Holy Trinity
  4. earth & body – the four elements, cardinal directions, yearly seasons, the four humors
  5. magic, human life
  6. perfection, days of creation
  7. astrology, virtue & vices, rest, music, luck
  8. resurrection of Christ, paradise
  9. pain, sadness
  10. completeness, finality
  11. negativity, monsters
  12. the zodiac
  13. bad luck

Sources:

  • https://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/math5.geometry/unit4/unit4.html
  • https://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/math5.geometry/unit8/unit8.html
  • https://www.britannica.com/topic/number-symbolism

While I love to sometimes consider color symbolism in my photos, I only very occasionally play with numbers. It’s interesting to see how numbers have been used historically, and I wonder how much this effects how people view the number of items in my photos and others.

One of these days, maybe I’ll create a 13 part series with items that represent each of the things in the list above…or maybe I’ll just stick to my beloved ‘1.’

Survival – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

What number is your favorite to use in your work? And what do you feel that number represents?

Jennifer Nichole Wells

A Busman’s Holiday

I’d never heard of a busman’s holiday before? Nor had I thought I’d ever been on one!

 noun: busman’s holiday

  1. a holiday or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.
    “a fire crew’s Christmas outing turned into a busman’s holiday when their coach caught fire”

While Shelly is away, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take some time off from shooting to take the wheel of the good ship Toy Photographers. I’d been running low on motivation and inspiration and thought this would be the perfect chance to recharge and reenergise. And while I thought I’d relish the break, I found myself doing what I usually do, a busman’s holiday.

Shelly and I share the load of the social media management. We take turns pushing posts out to IG and Facebook. We take the reins of the newsletter on alternate months, editing and sending out the weekly recap.

Just leave the subway a station
You’re on holiday, not vacation
Frenzal Rhomb – Holiday Not Vacation

Admittedly, it was my month to send out the newsletters, and with Shelly away, I only have an extra 3 or 4 social media shares to take care of each week. And, thanks to our wonderful regular contributors here, the posts take care of themselves. But the chance to step back from my creative slump and focus on the admin seemed just the thing I needed to recharge my creativeness. Or so I thought?

a busman's holiday
a busman’s holiday

With my self-imposed break from shooting, I found myself doing what I usually do. I was planning shots, scouting locations and even documenting the sun at different times in our backyard. And whilst I never pressed the shutter button once, I’m pretty sure I took more photos in my mind that I would’ve if I was shooting.

Not picking up the camera made me think more about ideas. So many concepts rattled around in my head. Planning shots that I had no immediate intention of shooting took more elaborate twists. Tales grew from simple ideas.

So, maybe a busman’s holiday was just the ticket I needed to get things back on route again?

– Brett

Have you ever taken some time off? Did you manage to actually take a break? Or did you find yourself doing what you usually do regardless?

If you’ve made through all my blathering and ended up here, you should sign up to our weekly email round up where you’ll get a recap of all the babbling from the week.
And while you’re doing things, you should definitely join our G+ Community where we hold monthly contests with prizes and lots of other cool stuff too.

Foolish Lego – Pt 2

In my last blogpost I talked about how I started in toy-photography. . Although my main concern at first was creating decent photos, my main interest came down to story-telling. While single photography brought me pleasure and such, I always felt there was something missing.

As everyone in this world does at some point in their life, I decided I wanted to write a book someday. I’m no different. I’m a person that usually contemplates a project over and over… and over again. Yet, in the end I don’t even start working on it. This time was different; I even took some lessons in creative writing. The results from that course weren’t all that bad, but I understood that actually writing a book would be way out of my league, so I shelved my plans on writing a book again. A few years later I came across another phenomenon on the Internet; Lego-comics!

At that instant, everything came together. I figured Lego-comics was something I could do, since I was already doing daily photography. How different could it be, right? So again; I simply started, not being bothered by my lack of knowledge on just about everything concerning comics.

The Foolish-Lego comic was born. The first episode went up on my daughter’s birthday four years ago. The first comic ran for 287 episodes and took about 2,75 years to end.

As I said, I had no idea what I was doing. All I had was a crude thought about where I was going with the story the first couple of episodes, but didn’t have a clue on how I was going to end it. I didn’t even know what characters I was going to include and I never heard of the words ‘(crude) outline’. Almost all episodes were written and shot on the fly. The day I was going to publish an episode, I wrote the script, shot the photos and created the episode. What the next episode would bring I didn’t know. As a result, the story felt very unbalanced and was influenced by the amount of time and inspiration I had on the day an episode needed to be published.

There was so much wrong with that comic. For instance, there wasn’t a descent plot, there was little -if any- character development and there were countless loose ends.

Lighting and effects were especially annoying to me. These differed per episode and I couldn’t get them consistent. The reason for that was that I didn’t have a setup like I have now. I shot on different locations and with differing light sources (‘normal’ lights, flashlights, phone-lights, x-mas lights, etc…). Because of this, the effects in Photoshop had differing results (they also differed because sometimes I forgot what I did the last episode).

This episode shows the inconsistency in lighting/ color-balance even within an episode. Between episodes it’s much clearer.

Another thing was that my main protagonist didn’t really do anything. If I took him out of the story, the events might still have unfolded mostly as they did, frustrating. At that time, I didn’t know what a character-driven plot was. As the comic proceeded I took most of my pleasure out of some of the side-characters (Like Daryl, Willy and Venator & Hammie) who at least had distinct personalities, albeit flat.

In the first comic there were scenes I was happy with. This is a scene that did move the story forward and was fairly consistent. However, this scene was very heavy on Photoshop and took a lot of time each episode to do right. So, at the time I was happy this scene ended.

During the running of that comic I hit the books and asked around on all kinds of things, story-telling, camera-positions, (lighting) set-up, creating characters, plot-development and such. By the time I knew a bit more, I got so frustrated by the flaws in my comic I had to end it. And so I did. The ending (when I finally thought of one) was (ironically) inspired by the ‘Neverending story’ and even to me it didn’t feel that satisfying. Yet, it had to be done, I wanted to do better!

Now I’m about 100 episodes into comic two (which also started on my daughter’s birthday, did I mention that I am a sucker for traditions). This time I had a plan!

I started writing a crude script for the whole comic (that I already revised a thousand times by now), created a decent studio set-up and decided on a few characters with distinct personalities and desires. This time I would focus on my own alter(L)ego Dwaas. Also, there would be some connections to the world in the first comic and to characters in my single photography. I also wanted to bring some meaning into the story. And even though it might feel a little slow this time around, I am reasonably happy with the progress up until now.

The root of Dwaas’ problems started straight after his ‘birth’. This scene is also my favorite one up until now. It sets up the second story nicely and harbors a lot of atmosphere (based on ‘Young Frankenstein’ b.t.w.)

Technically I am investigating camera positions, composition, elements of cinematography, mood and lighting. This time I want to bring some balance and stability to the setup, at the very least within a scene! Now I shoot the comic scene by scene, which takes me 1-2 days per scene for the shooting and composing.

Technically I am investigating camera positions, composition, elements of cinematography, mood and lighting. This time I want to bring some balance and stability to the setup, at the very least within a scene! Now I shoot the comic scene by scene, which takes me 1-2 days per scene for the shooting and composing. I hope to write more on specific aspects of how to create a Lego comic next time.

Dwaas’ beliefs get him in trouble many years little in multiple areas in his life, as becomes clear as the story progresses. Will he be alright in the end?

While writing this blogpost, I re-read the first comic and I was positively surprised to notice that I felt it to be rather entertaining. I can partly see through the flaws now. Anyway, If you would like to read it, the first story starts here, the second (ongoing) comic starts here.

Dwaas

Have you ever considered starting a comic, or have you started one?

My take on traveling with toys

To travel with toys

I travel a lot for work. And during this summer my family and I were on a three week journey in California. So with that experience I thought that I too, like Jennifer, Reiterlied, James and many more before them… ought to give you my thoughts about traveling with toys. Or being a toy photographer while traveling.

I work in small circles

But before I start, you have to understand that I photograph toys in a really limited area. I have a tendency to limit my photography a lot because that is me, I like to play safe 😉

In my latest project I have limited myself in terms of the subject, the choice of photo spaces and when I photograph to get the light I prefer. One way to look at this is that I have tight boundaries for ‘where’ and ‘how’ I photograph. These boundaries are challenged when I’m traveling or when I find myself in a new place. A journey makes it impossible for me to know where I can photograph or how the light will be. This is a huge challenge. To be totally honest, I usually don’t photograph toys when I travel.

Traveling means that I have to find places to work in. I have to find out when, where and how to make my images. I have to find the answers to questions like: when and where is the best time to get the light the way I like? Or how windy will it be? Or will I find a place in the rain where I can work or not? If I don’t find the answers Im looking for, what is my plan B? And all of this in a place that is new to me…  This makes the process of creating an image a much bigger and much more difficult process than normal.

A good day…

A good day traveling with toys can be a positive challenge. It is a day which makes me see and find new solutions. Traveling while in the midst of a 365-project gives me an opportunity to look at light in a new way, to look at my subject in a new context. But a less good day traveling with toys is just a struggle, a must – a picture should be taken or rather done (because of the 365 project).

No, I’m not spontaneously saying: “Yippie” to the idea of traveling with toys … I prefer to photograph where I can plan my process… in an environment that I know or am familiar with and where I can read the light. Working in a new setting is too much of a surprise. I prefer to work in the same place over and over again to get to know the light, how it changes during the day and how I can work with it. I need time, and traveling with toys doesn’t always gives me the opportunity to do that.

But sometimes I get lucky. Like when we stayed in a home in Fresno, CA for an extended stretch of time. I was able to examine the light and the photographic possibilities in the backyard. I was able to do make the most of the light and the limitations that came with the subject and the surroundings. And luckily I got some amazing images like those below. But most of the time when I’m traveling with toys I have to work in light that is too hard or a setting I can’t control. This forces me to create images that are just ”ok” or replicas of better ones I have done before…

Kristina

 

LEGO House Opening

This month is going to be a month to remember. Why? Because I’m traveling to Denmark for the opening of LEGO House. I won’t be attending the grand opening on September 28th, but a pre-opening for all the LEGO ambassadors from around the world on September 22nd.

I’m franticly getting ready for this epic adventure that also includes stops in Stockholm and Skærbæk. Everyone I plan to meet is connected to toy photography or LEGO in some way. It will be 10 days of visiting and playing with LEGO friends both new and old.

The pre-function

While in Stockholm I will be staying with my sister in photography: Kristina Alexanderson. She has graciously arranged some photography and art adventures for us while I’m there. I will get to connect with two other Swedish toy friends Christoffer Östburg and David Rasmusson. I always enjoy hanging out with Christoffer and I haven’t seen David since the LEGO photographers meet up in Stockholm. I’m looking forward to catching up over fika and talking politics, toys and photography. There are also visits to castles and art museums planned which will bring opportunities for some toy photography fun.

Why I’m Going

Obviously the big draw for this trip is the opening of the LEGO House. A once in a life time experience to celebrate the LEGO brick, friendships and creativity. I’m excited that Kristina is traveling to the LEGO House opening with me. We will team up to document the festivities and present a full written and photographic account of our adventures there. Since nearly 600 ambassadors where invited to this event, plus the attendees from the Skærbæk fan weekend, there will be no shortage of interesting people to meet.

The first and foremost of these interesting folks is Luigi Priori. Luigi and I share a mutual love for a certain little robot created by Peter Reid. We’ve been friends via the internet for more than a year, he’s written for the blog and he’s also a part of our G+ Community. Luigi is one of the primary reasons I’m going to LEGO House opening . While the opening of LEGO House will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, sharing the experience with my Italian friend, makes it all the sweeter.

An added bonus will be to connect with Julien Ballister again. I had such a great time hanging out with Julien and Maelick at the SF Toy Meet-up. I’m looking forward to sharing this amazing experience with Julien as well!

There are a few other people I’m excited to meet. They are: Kim Ellekjær Thomsen, Community Manager,
 Operations & Community Engagement, LCE for The LEGO Group . He’s my main contact at the LEGO Group and someone I’ve been trading emails with for nearly two years. The super talented Chris McVeigh, who honestly I never thought I would meet in person. Chris is both a builder and a photographer and I admire his ability to wear both hats with an expertise I can only dream of. Recently I found out that Tim Johnson, who I worked with while he was the editor of Bricks Culture, will also be there. While these few are all I know will be there, I’m confident there will be others. I can’t believe this will be happening in only two weeks!

The Other Reason I’m Going

The LEGO Ambassador event is scheduled to precede the Skærbæk Fan Weekend in Denmark. This is a well-attended LEGO event about an hour away from Billund. I was asked by Luigi to help give a talk on LEGO Photography and Julien has arranged for us to have a display of our work at the event. We even persuaded Chris McVeigh to join us for our little exhibition.

While giving a talk on LEGO photography is not in my comfort zone, I won’t let a case of nerves get in the way. I know that toy photography is not the most interesting topic for fans of the brick, but I hope that Luigi, Julien and I can inspire at least one person to pick up a camera and their toys and join us.

Too much of a good thing

I know myself pretty well. And while my time with Kristina will be pretty low key, the events around LEGO will be over whelming. I reached out to another LEGO friend, Julie Broberg, who lives in the vicinity. She has an errand to run in Skærbæk so she will come rescue me on Saturday afternoon and we will go on an adventure together. There is no way I could travel this close to Julie and not see her smiling face. I’m sure I will miss out on something incredible by escaping. But at the same time, I’m looking forward to catching up with the first person I ever met who worked for the LEGO Group.

The Long Goodby

According to Luigi, one of the big highlights of the fan weekend is a chance to visit the LEGO employee store on Monday morning. With some trepidation I signed up for this event. The thought of standing in line to make a dash for sets selling for a reduced rate makes me cringe. But I will put on my festive face and do my part to keep the company in the black. My son has requested that I pick him up a HUGE technic set. Who am I to disappoint one of my favorite people on this earth? My only worry is transporting it home!

When the shopping is complete, the goodbyes will begin in earnest. I know already that our time together will be too short. But I have faith that I will find a reason to journey back to Europe for more toy photography fun. It’s not goodby, its: “I’ll see you on the inter-webs.”

Why I’m really Going

While I’m sure that the LEGO House is amazing (the initial images making the rounds have been super cool), I’m making this trip for the experience. I want to meet the people that bring joy to my life through our on-line interactions. Whenever Kristina and I get together, some quiet magic always happens.  We talk, we discuss, she pushes me in new directions – she opens my eyes to her unique world view. I always come away a little richer and wiser for the experience.

To be able to connect with Luigi and finally hear his voice will be priceless. We have been internet friends for nearly two years. Peter Reid’s robot and our mutual love of toy photography may have been the basis of our friendship, but I know we have more in common than that. We both love the mountains and being outdoors. I look forward to seeing where else we can find commonality and what I can learn from our differences.

I’ve made many fabulous friends through my hobby of toy photography and collecting LEGO mini figures. Attending the opening of LEGO House will be one more experience in this incredible adventure; an adventure I’m grateful for everyday.

Shelly

If you have any special requests about what you would like Kristina and I to write about and photograph at the LEGO House, let me know. We can stalk builders (12 famous ones will be there), we can take photos of some of the cool set-ups, we can take our signature figs and see what mischief that can get into. Tell me what you want to see, and I will see if we can make it happen. Lets have some fun with this!

And if you’ve made it this far I encourage you to sign up for our weekly email round-up. Or join our G+ Community were we hold monthly contests with prizes for the winner! 

What came first?

What came first? The chicken or the egg? The lyrics or the music? The setup or the idea?

We all have ideas bubbling away in our heads. Preconceived concepts tag along as we venture out to shoot plastic. Stories are already playing out before our subjects are posed before the lens.

But, sometimes those stories meander off into something new. New ideas come to light with out subject of choice before us. Concepts and notions twist, turn and evolve into another. Often we return with our initial ideas, concepts and tales shelved for another venture; another day.

And all this is cool! This is one of the many things I love about photographing toys. I love thinking up stories. The tales and concepts that emerge excite me. I also relish the twists and turns that inevitably occur when I’m out shooting. And the wonderful surprises of never considered outcomes is one of the greatest thrills of this “lying in dirt focussing in on toys” thing we do.

However…

However, this week I was asked to provide specificity around every proposed image that I been asked to create for a client; specific, precise and exact descriptions of each photo I plan on delivering to client.

But, I can’t even do that for myself?

What came first? The notion or the emotion?

What came first: Lyrics & music, eggs & chickens?
Lyrics & music, eggs & chickens?

If I promised myself every shot I had in mind before I headed off the beach, I’d greatly disappoint myself before the sand on my knees had time to dry. If I delivered what is often a vast deviation from the proposed outcome, I’d be disenchanted as the client. And as I, the client pointed out what was initially offered compared to what was delivered, I’d feel artistically restricted as the consultant not being allowed the opportunity to expand and explore possibilities and stories.

And…

The request for detailed a synopsis of what I’d deliver was daunting. But, there was another aspect to this request to factor in.

My specific descriptions of proposed photo outcomes we to highlight toys that I didn’t have yet. Now this might not sound like another complexity cog in this proposition wheel, but for me it was.

What came first? The preconception or the perception?

When we’re lucky enough to be sent Collectable Minifigures to photograph and review, I always start planning ideas before their arrival. It’s good to plan ahead. It helps to have a schedule for shooting and locations when I’m attempting to get the review uploaded as soon as possible after their arrival.

Yet, when the box arrives and the unpacking begins, the new Minifigures more times than not, demand a photo that was never envisaged before I had them in my hands. Often, my predetermined thoughts of what a particular Minifigure deserves is far from the mark. Repeatedly, new ideas emerge and plans are rewritten in the presence of the new arrivals.

So…

So, with Kristina’s words echoing in my head, I sent off my proposed ideas for the possible outcomes of shooting toys that hadn’t had their chance to tell me their stories. I explained that without the toys to talks to me, it was difficult to grasp what stories they wanted to be told.The twisting, turning nature of how my photos evolve was also explained.

I can only assume that, if a client understands that the toys speak to me, things will work out. 

Or maybe they’ll think I’m a complete nutbag and slowly recoil from the offer, smiling politely, and avoiding any sudden movements or noises!

– Brett

Are your concepts locked in prior to shooting? Do your stories twist and change once your toys are in front of the lens? Have you ever been asked to outline a photo without understanding the subject?

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A Family Portrait

Hello everybody!!

Today I would like to tell you a story. This is the story of how a family overcame obstacles to reach a goal. The most difficult thing for me is translating some typical Italian expressions, but i’ll do my best.

Recently, my wife and I, along with my little daughter and my aunt, were invited for lunch at my parents holiday’s home. At the end of the lunch, while my wife was taking my daughter to sleep, my mom brought the coffee. After the first sip, I asked:

“Mom, do you have an inflatable swimming pool here?”
“Yes, it’s downstairs, what do you need it for?”, she asked.
“I want to take a picture.” I replied.
“Of the swimming pool?”
“No. Dad, do you remember karate kid?” I asked, while watching my dad.
“Of course!” he answered.
“And do you remember the training on the beach?”
“Yes, crane kick!” he quickly responded. “Do you want to take a picture of a minifigure doing the crane kick?
That would be nice!” my mom exclaimed.
“No mom, I’ve already done that, I want to take a picture of the training on the boat. That’s why I need the swimming pool.” I said.
“The one that we have will need some time to be filled” she clarified. “But if you want, I have a smaller one”

Then she brought a small circular inflatable swimming pool with bright orange border. I said, “Ok, let’s try”. My dad took the pool and started to fill it while I was preparing the minifigs on the boat. When the swimming pool was filled, I brought over the little boat.

“Okay, it floats. What I need now is to find something to hold it in place because I also need some waves.”
I was thinking about a big pile of LEGO, of course.
My aunt asked “Would some rocks do the job?”

Without leaving me time to answer, my dad started searching for all the stones he could find and putting them in the pool, making a big pile.
After emptying the pool a bit, I placed the boat on top of the stack. I gave a first look at the camera and noticed the white ground of the pool.

“We need something to cover the bottom.”
My dad came back with a piece of green wood and other stones, exclaiming “I feel like on a movie set!”.

Then we moved the rocks around to hide the bottom, while my father covered the back of the very orange pool with some grass, even if the camera would have never framed it. But you know, details are everything.
Just as everything seemed to be in the right place, I remembered one thing: the waves!

“Dad, do you have a small fan?”
“Let me check”

Meanwhile, I noticed the front edge of the very orange pool which would show at the bottom of the camera screen. I know that later I could easily crop the picture, but it still bothered me. I put a hand over it and lowered gently until it disappeared from the viewfinder. And you know what?

That movement created waves.
Small waves like the morning wind on the sea.
It could have been the afternoon wind, but the morning was more poetic.

Soon after my father and mother came back, both with empty hands.

“I’m sorry, I thought I had a fan but I can’t find it” he apologized.
“Don’t worry dad, look here,” I said, lowering the edge with continuous, quick movements. He looked at my mother and said, “Well, I can’t believe it.”

While they shared the disbelief, I noticed some harsh reflections on the minifigs and the water, so I mumbled:

“The sun is killing the ninja …”
“Want an umbrella?” My mother asked.
I thought for a couple of seconds, then I said, “Why not? Let’s try it.”

Then she brought the umbrella and opened it while I directed her to cover the sun. I took a couple of shots and modified them a bit in post-production for the end result. Even though I am very happy with my final photo, the journey has been, by far, the most important thing for me. My family was involved and I want to thank them because this picture is really a family portrait.

Marco (The APhOL)